Low-Income Preschool Students Threatened Under Sequestration

By Lolita Lopez
|  Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 11:52 PM PDT
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Head Start programs in Los Angeles may have to close their doors if Congress doesn't find a way to prevent billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts by March 1. Lolita Lopez reports from the Westlake District for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2013.

Lolita Lopez

Head Start programs in Los Angeles may have to close their doors if Congress doesn't find a way to prevent billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts by March 1. Lolita Lopez reports from the Westlake District for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2013.

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From school hallways to the food on families’ tables, the budget turmoil in the nation’s capital may have a direct effect on Californians’ lives should Congress fail to reach a deal this week.

Ismael Lopez said his son, Elil, is flourishing since he began attending the Little Stars Head Start program, which gives low-income children the preschool education they may otherwise not receive.

"We can't pay for it," Lopez said. "Everything is so expensive"

If congress does not come to a consensus on the budget and the sequester takes effect on Friday, the doors to schools across Los Angles will close. Organizations, like PACE and LA-UP, that help run the programs cannot keep them going.

More: Specifics on How California Will Be Affected | California Would Lose $500M Under Sequestration

"For us, a 5.4 percent cut at the sequestration would really mean $980,000," said Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi, with PACE.

And that means teachers, like Monica Guerrero, who recently received a college degree, may lose their jobs.

"Without a job, owing those loans, my payment of my home, and the children, you know, they won't be as prepared for kindergarten," Guerrero said.

K-12 schools are also poised to lose millions if the sequestration cuts are enacted. The Los Angeles Unified School District alone could be down $37 million for the next school year without federal funding.

And the cuts trickle down to other services, including at Head Start, where families in need of social workers’ help may lose that aid.

The domino effect could possibly continue to Californians’ tables. Furloughs for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors at meat and poultry plants are expected to affect the cost of the food at grocery stores and restaurants.

And any money you might be getting back from the IRS could be delayed, with expected cuts to that group's work force if no budget is reached.

A UCLA economics professor told NBC4 that some cuts are needed. For example, subsidies to the sugar industry could save millions of dollars each year, but the cuts need to be more defined.

But that is not the way it will work on Friday, which is leaving many residents in California and across the country anxious about their immediate futures.

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